BASE

A BASE jumper descends into the New River Gorge during the 40th year celebration of Bridge Day. The Fayette County Commission held an emergency meeting Wednesday morning and opted to cast its vote against holding Bridge Day when the Bridge Day Commission addresses the situation at the BDC meeting set for 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 29. The Fayette County Commission has one vote as a member of the BDC, which is comprised of representatives from several agencies.

Meeting in an emergency session Wednesday morning, the Fayette County Commission unanimously indicated its intention to cast a vote to cancel Bridge Day when the matter comes before the Bridge Day Commission at 1:30 p.m. today.

The county commission also designated Commissioner John Brenemen to serve as the proxy for Commissioner Allison Rae Taylor, the normal representative, at Wednesday's BDC meeting, in the event that Taylor can't access the meeting. Taylor is going to be on an airplane flight which had been planned prior to last week's motion for a second Bridge Day Commission vote on staging the 2021 event. On Sept. 15, the BDC voted 4-2 against a motion to cancel the Oct. 16 event.

Citing uncertainties along several fronts, BASE jumpers announced last week they were pulling out of this year's Bridge Day.

On the agenda for the Bridge Day Commission meeting Wednesday afternoon at Fayetteville Town Hall is an item to "revisit discussion and vote on Bridge Day 2021."

At the end of Wednesday's Fayette County Commission meeting, Brenemen read a press release the commission approved for dissemination to the public. It was as follows:

"It is with great regret the Fayette County commissioners inform the public we have decided unanimously to exercise our vote at the Bridge Day Commission meeting later today to effectively cancel Bridge Day 2021. We did not make this decision lightly. There have been many theories about why this issue is up for another vote only two weeks after the Bridge Day Commission voted 4-2 in favor of proceeding with Bridge Day this year, and we would like to set the record straight.

"It is not because the county's Covid numbers are getting worse since the Bridge Day Commission voted to proceed with Bridge Day two weeks ago, because they are improving.

"It is not because the county could not provide for the safety of the BASE jumpers or Bridge Day attendees and participants, because the state and the Summit Bechtel Reserve were prepared to provide resources to accommodate the needs of any additional sick or injured.

"It is not because the local hospitals asked the county or the Bridge Day Commission to cancel the event, because it did not.

"It is not because there were not enough bus drivers to transport guests or participants to events, because the State Department of Education was prepared to assist the Bridge Day Commission with recruiting volunteer bus drivers from other counties to assist.

"It was not because the National Park Service refused to issue a permit due to any of these issues, because it granted the permit and only required a mask mandate to enter the venue.

"It is not because anything changed for the worse since the Bridge Day Commission voted to proceed with Bridge Day, because nothing has.

"It is because a small group of individuals decided it knew better than your elected federal, state and county officials and acted to influence the coordinator of Bridge Day's main event, BASE jumping, to cancel its participation in Bridge Day. They did this by misleading him to believe the jumpers he represents would not have the support they required to efficiently reach the jump site or have access to medical care should they suffer an injury. This small group knew the BASE jumper withdrawal would likely result in the cancellation of Bridge Day — and, they were right.

"As you all know, BASE jumping is the main event at Bridge Day, and without it, Bridge Day would not be the same. Your county commissioners believe the nation's newest national park deserves to be celebrated with the full glory of Bridge Days past. Under the current circumstances, we do not believe that possible.

"That said, your Fayette County commissioners will act promptly to implement changes to the Bridge Day Commission bylaws and take all necessary action to ensure in the future no individual or small group has the power to unilaterally influence a decision that affects not just Fayette County, but also Bridge Day attendees and participants, neighboring counties, the State of West Virginia and the National Park Service. We join you in your disappointment over this news and look forward to seeing you at Bridge Day 2022."

Email: skeenan@register-herald.com or follow on Twitter @gb_scribe

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